NEW YORK (AP) - When it comes to the NFL draft, getting tricked into an online relationship with a girl that didn’t exist ended up being the least of Manti Te’o’s problems.
That stinker of a game he played against Alabama? Now that’s an issue. Same goes for that less than blazing 40-yard dash he ran at the combine.
Considering all the news involving Te’o since the calendar flipped to 2013, it seems like forever since he was leading Notre Dame to the national title game, playing linebacker like an All-American and cleaning up on the college football awards circuit.
Combine the good, bad and bizarre, and when Te’o gets selected might be the most intriguing part of the NFL draft that starts Thursday in New York.
It’s unlikely that Te’o, who turned down a chance to attend the draft, will be off the board during the first 15 or so picks, but come the back-half of the first round, expect plenty of Te’o talk.
Te’o figured to be a highly scrutinized player heading into this draft even before he became a tabloid news and daytime talk show fixation.
The 6-foot-1, 240-pound middle linebacker was the unquestioned leader of a Notre Dame defense that ranked among the best in the country and propelled the Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season.
Te’o led the team in tackles and made seven interceptions, more than any linebacker in the country. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting behind Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, and took home a trophy case-full of other awards.
At his best, Te’o was being touted by some draft prognosticators as a high first-round pick.
Then Notre Dame played Alabama for the national championship.
The Crimson Tide crushed the Irish 42-14 in South Florida and Te’o looked overwhelmed facing Alabama’s array of future NFL draft picks along the line and in the backfield.
You could practically hear Te’o tumbling down draft boards with every missed tackle.
Then things got weird. It was revealed that Te’o’s girlfriend, who supposedly died during the season, never existed. He had been the victim of an elaborate hoax. Catfished.